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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | Virgin Records

Distinctions Stereophile: Record To Die For
Considering the slow trickle of completed albums he has released since becoming a superstar in 1986 -- just two albums of songs with vocals, paired with two albums of soundtracks and two live records -- deliberate is expected from Peter Gabriel, so the slow, hushed crawl of Scratch My Back is no shock. What may be a shock is that Gabriel chose to follow 2002’s Up with a covers album but, like all of his work, this 2010 record is highly conceptual no matter how minimal the end result may be. Designed as the first half of a two-part project where Gabriel would cover 12 different artists who would then return the favor by recording their own versions of Gabriel’s compositions -- the counterpart album naturally bearing the title I’ll Scratch Yours -- Scratch My Back divides neatly between six songs from his peers (Bowie, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Lou Reed, David Byrne) and six songs from younger artists (Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Stephin Merritt, Bon Iver, Elbow, Regina Spektor). Gabriel doesn’t dodge familiar tunes, choosing to sing “Heroes” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” but he twists each tune to his own needs, arranging everything with nothing more than piano and strings, a change that’s almost jarring on Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble,” yet it stays true to the undercurrent of melancholy in the melody. Indeed, all of Scratch My Back is stark, sober, and spare, delving ever deeper inward, a triumph of intellect over emotion -- a noted contrast to almost all cover albums that celebrate the visceral, not the cerebral. Immediate it may not be but fascinating it is, and after hearing Gabriel turn all 12 of these songs into something unmistakably his own, the appetite is surely whetted for its companion piece. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 6, 2019 | Caroline International (S&D)

Peter Gabriel’s is still unveiling treasures. Flotsam and Jetsam is both a “best of” record and a compilation of rare finds. A few months after his very brief album Rated PG, which brought together the artist’s songs for the big screen, Flotsam and Jetsam comprises three volumes – ordered more or less chronologically – of Peter Gabriel’s career. We find both his well-known hits (Solsbury Hill, Sledgehammer, Biko, In Your Eyes...) and other much more obscure tracks. In the 80s, B sides contained EPs and singles, offering artists a way to share both new releases and remixes and Peter Gabriel was among those to pounce on this format. He also used the opportunity to share songs that were only available in film soundtracks. This compilation unearths tracks that never appeared on official albums and we find some nuggets that would have deserved more attention as their commercial potential seems obvious today: Digging In The Dirt (in its rock version), Walk Through The Fire (also found on Rated PG), Don't Break This Rhythm, Curtains...With 62 tracks and a duration of nearly 6 hours, no one will blame you for picking and choosing from the songs. At times, we wonder if perhaps just one version of the songs (which often come in many different versions) would have sufficed! Especially since his huge hits are already readily available (especially on his album Hit, which boasts many of his greatest songs). Things don’t get off to a great start with his cover of the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever, itself taken from the highly debatable soundtrack of the film All This And World War II. Few will have the courage to listen more than once to this bizarre situation where the singer is hardly to his advantage… On the other hand, the idea of gathering together his covers is brilliant. We find In The Sun borrowed from Joseph Arthur, Summertime by George Gershwin with Larry Adler’s harmonica, and Suzanne by Leonard Cohen... Flotsam And Jetsam also fills the gaps left by some of Rated PG’s omissions, including the remarkable Signal To Noise and The Tower That Hate People.This relatively balanced album offers an overview of Peter Gabriel’s many styles, from hard rock to electro, chill-out new age, pop new wave, funk and most of all world music, a genre for which he is still one of the most ardent defenders. Though despite this grand unveiling, I Go Swimming, Lovetown, Baby Man, Out Out Out, While The Earth Sleeps are still missing. © Jean-Pierre Sabouret/Qobuz
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So

Rock - Released May 18, 1986 | Real World Productions Ltd.

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Rock - Released May 18, 1986 | Real World Productions Ltd.

Peter Gabriel introduced his fifth studio album, So, with "Sledgehammer," an Otis Redding-inspired soul-pop raver that was easily his catchiest, happiest single to date. Needless to say, it was also his most accessible, and, in that sense it was a good introduction to So, the catchiest, happiest record he ever cut. "Sledgehammer" propelled the record toward blockbuster status, and Gabriel had enough songs with single potential to keep it there. There was "Big Time," another colorful dance number; "Don't Give Up," a moving duet with Kate Bush; "Red Rain," a stately anthem popular on album rock radio; and "In Your Eyes," Gabriel's greatest love song, which achieved genuine classic status after being featured in Cameron Crowe's classic Say Anything. These all illustrated the strengths of the album: Gabriel's increased melodicism and ability to blend African music, jangly pop, and soul into his moody art rock. Apart from these singles, plus the urgent "That Voice Again," the rest of the record is as quiet as the album tracks of Security. The difference is, the singles on that record were part of the overall fabric; here, the singles are the fabric, which can make the album seem top-heavy (a fault of many blockbuster albums, particularly those of the mid-'80s). Even so, those songs are so strong, finding Gabriel in a newfound confidence and accessibility, that it's hard not to be won over by them, even if So doesn't develop the unity of its two predecessors. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2009 | Real World Productions Ltd.

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 15, 2019 | Caroline International (S&D)

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Peter Gabriel’s is still unveiling treasures. Flotsam and Jetsam is both a “best of” record and a compilation of rare finds. A few months after his very brief album Rated PG, which brought together the artist’s songs for the big screen, Flotsam and Jetsam comprises three volumes – ordered more or less chronologically – of Peter Gabriel’s career. We find both his well-known hits (Solsbury Hill, Sledgehammer, Biko, In Your Eyes...) and other much more obscure tracks. In the 80s, B sides contained EPs and singles, offering artists a way to share both new releases and remixes and Peter Gabriel was among those to pounce on this format. He also used the opportunity to share songs that were only available in film soundtracks. This compilation unearths tracks that never appeared on official albums and we find some nuggets that would have deserved more attention as their commercial potential seems obvious today: Digging In The Dirt (in its rock version), Walk Through The Fire (also found on Rated PG), Don't Break This Rhythm, Curtains...With 62 tracks and a duration of nearly 6 hours, no one will blame you for picking and choosing from the songs. At times, we wonder if perhaps just one version of the songs (which often come in many different versions) would have sufficed! Especially since his huge hits are already readily available (especially on his album Hit, which boasts many of his greatest songs). Things don’t get off to a great start with his cover of the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever, itself taken from the highly debatable soundtrack of the film All This And World War II. Few will have the courage to listen more than once to this bizarre situation where the singer is hardly to his advantage… On the other hand, the idea of gathering together his covers is brilliant. We find In The Sun borrowed from Joseph Arthur, Summertime by George Gershwin with Larry Adler’s harmonica, and Suzanne by Leonard Cohen... Flotsam And Jetsam also fills the gaps left by some of Rated PG’s omissions, including the remarkable Signal To Noise and The Tower That Hate People.This relatively balanced album offers an overview of Peter Gabriel’s many styles, from hard rock to electro, chill-out new age, pop new wave, funk and most of all world music, a genre for which he is still one of the most ardent defenders. Though despite this grand unveiling, I Go Swimming, Lovetown, Baby Man, Out Out Out, While The Earth Sleeps are still missing. © Jean-Pierre Sabouret/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 15, 2019 | Caroline International (S&D)

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Rock - Released June 2, 1978 | Real World Productions Ltd.

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Rock - Released April 26, 2019 | Real World Productions Ltd.

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Hit

Rock - Released November 3, 2003 | Real World Productions Ltd.

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World - Released January 1, 2002 | Caroline International (S&D)

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Rock - Released November 20, 1990 | Real World Productions Ltd.

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Rock - Released January 1, 2009 | Real World Productions Ltd.

Peter Gabriel tells why he left Genesis in "Solsbury Hill," the key track on his 1977 solo debut. Majestically opening with an acoustic guitar, the song finds Gabriel's talents gelling, as the words and music feed off each other, turning into true poetry. It stands out dramatically on this record, not because the music doesn't work, but because it brilliantly illustrates why Gabriel had to fly on his own. Though this is undeniably the work of the same man behind The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, he's turned his artiness inward, making his music coiled, dense, vibrant. There is still some excess, naturally, yet it's the sound of a musician unleashed, finally able to bend the rules as he wishes. That means there are less atmospheric instrumental sections than there were on his last few records with Genesis, as the unhinged bizarreness in the arrangements, compositions, and productions, in tracks such as the opener "Moribund the Burgermeister" vividly illustrate. He also has turned sleeker, sexier, capable of turning out a surging rocker like "Modern Love." If there is any problem with Peter Gabriel, it's that Gabriel is trying too hard to show the range of his talents, thereby stumbling occasionally with the doo wop-to-cabaret "Excuse Me" or the cocktail jazz of "Waiting for the Big One" (or, the lyric "you've got me cookin'/I'm a hard-boiled egg" on "Humdrum"). Still, much of the record teems with invigorating energy (as on "Slowburn," or the orchestral-disco pulse of "Down the Dolce Vita"), and the closer "Here Comes the Flood" burns with an anthemic intensity that would later become his signature in the '80s. Yes, it's an imperfect album, but that's a byproduct of Gabriel's welcome risk-taking -- the very thing that makes the album work, overall. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 15, 2019 | Caroline International (S&D)

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Rock - Released February 12, 2010 | Real World Records Ltd.

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OVO

Alternative & Indie - Released November 15, 2019 | Caroline International (S&D)

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Rock - Released February 12, 2010 | Real World Records Ltd.

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Hit

Rock - Released November 3, 2003 | Real World Productions Ltd.

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Rock - Released January 1, 1994 | Real World Productions Ltd.

An aural postcard of Gabriel's 1993-1994 "Us World Tour," Secret World Live is demonstrative of this studio perfectionist's ability to produce singular, textured works in any setting. To expand the music's breadth, for the "Us" tour he added noted jazz violinist Shankar and vocalist Paula Cole to his band, and restructured the songs to reflect the more celebratory aspects of live performances. This mix provides Secret World Live with its worldbeat-meets-new age jazz meets-English art-soul sound. The second half of the album incorporates previous hits -- the sexually charged "Sledgehammer," the elegiac "Don't Give Up" (with Cole playing Kate Bush's part), and the anthemic "In Your Eyes" -- into a song-cycle that explores youth and love. It all makes Gabriel's Secret World Live add up to a musical stew that is equal parts William Gibson, Carl Jung, and Fela Kuti. © TiVo
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So

Rock - Released May 18, 1986 | Real World Productions Ltd.

Peter Gabriel introduced his fifth studio album, So, with "Sledgehammer," an Otis Redding-inspired soul-pop raver that was easily his catchiest, happiest single to date. Needless to say, it was also his most accessible, and, in that sense it was a good introduction to So, the catchiest, happiest record he ever cut. "Sledgehammer" propelled the record toward blockbuster status, and Gabriel had enough songs with single potential to keep it there. There was "Big Time," another colorful dance number; "Don't Give Up," a moving duet with Kate Bush; "Red Rain," a stately anthem popular on album rock radio; and "In Your Eyes," Gabriel's greatest love song, which achieved genuine classic status after being featured in Cameron Crowe's classic Say Anything. These all illustrated the strengths of the album: Gabriel's increased melodicism and ability to blend African music, jangly pop, and soul into his moody art rock. Apart from these singles, plus the urgent "That Voice Again," the rest of the record is as quiet as the album tracks of Security. The difference is, the singles on that record were part of the overall fabric; here, the singles are the fabric, which can make the album seem top-heavy (a fault of many blockbuster albums, particularly those of the mid-'80s). Even so, those songs are so strong, finding Gabriel in a newfound confidence and accessibility, that it's hard not to be won over by them, even if So doesn't develop the unity of its two predecessors. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo